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What is Infill Development?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Also known as urban infill development, infill development is a strategy that is used to repurpose real estate within a city or town that is no longer serving any real purpose. The process of this type of development effort may include new construction on vacant lots, rezoning declining areas for new purposes, or even modifying existing structures so they can serve a new purpose. Infill development is often part of an overall urban renewal strategy, designed to revitalize areas of the city that have declined and are no longer considered desirable for any particular purpose.

The most common example of infill development usually involves vacant lots or parcels of land. While these lots may have once held some type of structure, those buildings are no longer present. In order to make the area useful again, city planners identify a use for the vacant lot and proceed to implement that purpose. For example, a vacant lot may become home to a new structure, or even be turned into a parking lot that helps to alleviate a parking problem that prevents consumers from shopping in nearby retail establishments.

Another example of infill development in inner city areas is the conversion of a vacant lot into a neighborhood park or recreation facility. This approach can often provide local residents with activities in their own neighborhoods that were unavailable in times past, and lead to an increase in civic pride. Over time, the presence of the park or recreation center leads to other improvements to the surrounding neighborhood, making the area more desirable to people who are looking for a new place to live.

In some cases, infill development is focused on repurposing older structures that are still in relatively good condition. A popular approach today is to take older warehouses that are no longer in use and convert the structures so they house condominiums or apartment lofts. Some designs call for creating retail space on the bottom floor, reserving the upper floors for living space. This particular approach is helpful when attempting to revitalize a downtown area near a waterfront, and can often serve as an anchor for encouraging people who work in the city to make downtown their home as well.

The process of infill development often means changing the zoning laws and how they apply to a given area. This means that once thriving sections that were reserved for commercial use only may have to be rezoned in order to allow buildings to be converted into usable and attractive living space. At the same time, residential areas that have declined significantly may have to be rezoned in order to build commercial structures in the area and possibly restore some degree or prosperity to the area.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Vincenzo — On May 05, 2014

@Terrificli -- this has also been a crucial component to the "walking city" concept that has gained in popularity over the past couple of decades. The notion is that, prior to the automobile, it was common for people to live, work and shop in the same area. Environmental concerns and a worries about depending too much on foreign oil -- issues that came up when commuting became popular -- have caused some areas to embrace the walking city concept.

The good thing about the infill development strategy is that we are often talking about large areas with depressed property values. Investors can snap up a lot of land for not much money and then plan a walking city (or other project) on a large scale.

By Terrificli — On May 04, 2014

What we are looking at here is a strategy to combat urban sprawl. The traditional path of development was to build up an area, utilize it for awhile, abandon it for another area when the "new" wore off and the area became older and rundown and then repeat that process. That was an incredibly wasteful use of land and contributed toward rundown areas in older parts of cities.

To combat that waste and to restore older areas, infill development was devised. It has been very successful in a lot of areas and has helped bring new life to rundown parts of cities. In terms of economic development, this has been a very sound way to keep property values up and land viable options for developers.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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